Can Writing in First-Person Perspective Drive Your Business Away?
Writing in first-person perspective gets old – fast – in business writing.
First-person perspective means the writer is directly inserting himself or herself into the piece. An author might mention “my way of thinking” and talk about what “I believe” instead of just sticking to the impersonal facts. Or the piece might reference the writer’s past, present or future, told as if he or she is standing right there talking to readers.
Writing in first-person perspective isn’t about presenting a strictly informative article about someone or something else. It’s the author’s opinion about or experience with that someone or something else.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this style, either in theory or in practice. It can be exceptionally useful in business writing, letting customers know that there’s an actual human being on the other end of the computer – not just another computer.
That’s why the method can be so great for business blogging, establishing a one-on-one connection with readers that keep them coming back over time. They feel like they know the blogger, partially because they do.
They’ve been welcomed into that author’s world of “I.”
Plus, writing in first-person perspective is automatically more conversational, a style that’s revolutionizing the author-wide world. Everyone from famous historians to Wall Street Journal contributors are leaning in that direction these days. (Though that hardly means they’re always writing in first-person perspective. The two terms aren’t synonymous, only complimentary.)
But in order to make it work well with business writing, people need to understand how it can turn readers off just as easily as welcome them in.
First-person perspective can, after all, sound egotistical. “I know this” and “I know that” and “Do it the way I do” gets old in no time flat. So strongly consider whether “I” is appropriate before you throw it in.
When to Use First-Person Perspective:
If the piece in question is short. Short blog posts of under 400 words are often a great place for authors to work their ego-sporting magic. There’s little chance for readers to get overwhelmed by a writing presence in such a short amount of space.
If the piece in question is personal. That sounds obvious, yes, but it’s still worth stating. If the purpose of your business writing is to share something about yourself, then do precisely that, letting your audience understand that the subject means something special to you.
If it’s a brief reference. Writing in first-person perspective is typically fine if it’s a sentence-by-sentence decision, where the instructions or advice being given isn’t entirely told as a blatant “I” to “you.” Interchanging second-person and third-person perspective can, once again, make a presentation more conversational. After all, isn’t that how we normally speak to each other?
When Not to Use First-Person Perspective:
If it’s consistently across more than one page. Simply put, that gets draining. Such an elongated focus on someone else’s ego can make readers feel unimportant and therefore uninspired to continue.
There are no-doubt exceptions to those rules. That’s usually the case with anything writing-related. So here’s an overarching guideline to follow… Strongly consider whether first-person perspective writing is appropriate for your particular purpose. If it’s going to enrich and engage your readers, then run with it. But if it even comes close to being about your business alone, it’s a good bet you want to find another way to phrase it.